For Airlines, Dry Ice in Vaccine Transport Demands Special Attention

A worker with dry ice at a Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at minus-70 degrees Celsius.
PHOTO: OLIVIER MATTHYS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The refrigerant needed to maintain some doses during distribution is regulated as a dangerous good for aviation transport
The large amounts of dry ice needed to speed Covid-19 vaccine candidates to pandemic-weary populations will call for special attention from airlines and safety regulators.
Dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide, is a critical part of plans to transport the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, which must be kept at ultracold temperatures. Pfizer expects to ship 50 million doses world-wide by the end of the year. The vaccine was the first to be authorized in the West, receiving clearance for emergency use in the U.K. last week. It is under review by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.
Widely used as a refrigerant, dry ice is classified as a dangerous good by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the U.S. Department of Transportation because it changes to gas form as it breaks down, a process called sublimation. Shippers must use ventilated containers that allow the gas to release, to prevent pressure from building up and rupturing the packaging.
The gas can also displace oxygen in confined spaces with poor ventilation, creating a suffocation hazard, though the risk is minimal under normal cabin ventilation, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
“If oxygen levels get down below 19%, that could cause a hazard to people and animals,” said Delmer Billings, technical director for the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council, a nonprofit trade group that promotes safe transportation of hazardous materials. “If you deplete oxygen sufficiently, it could cause unconsciousness, even death,” he added.
Air carriers involved in vaccine transport efforts are asking aviation regulators to increase the amount of dry ice they are allowed to carry on flights hauling vaccines as they work with drugmakers and governments to set up distribution channels. Restrictions on the amount of the material on planes are typically based on aircraft ventilation rates and factors such as the size of the plane and whether it is used for passenger or cargo flights, said Robert Coyle, senior vice president of pharma and healthcare strategy at freight forwarder Kuehne + Nagel International AG.
On Thursday, Delta Air Lines Inc. said it had received FAA approval to double the allowed load of dry ice on its Airbus A330 and A350 wide-body jets, and six times the prior allowed load for shipments using a special suitcase-sized storage container that Pfizer designed.
Delta has done trial runs with vaccine cargoes from Europe and to Latin America, and within the U.S., all on cargo-only flights.
United Airlines Holdings Inc. secured FAA approval last month to boost its dry-ice allowance to 15,000 pounds from 3,000 pounds, for chartered cargo flights between Brussels International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport to support distribution of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. A United spokeswoman said the airline “has effective procedures in place to ensure we safely handle all the hazardous materials we are permitted to carry on board our aircraft.”
Extremely cold with a surface temperature of about minus-78 degrees Celsius, dry ice has long been used to ship medicine, pharmaceutical products and perishable food such as meat or ice cream.
“When packaged and stored properly, it poses no risk,” said Rafael Teixeira, president of World Courier and ICS, a specialty logistics provider owned by drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp.
The scale of the Covid-19 vaccine distribution effort is unprecedented, involving billions of doses with strict temperature-control requirements that are expected to strain cold-chain shipping networks.
The Pfizer and BioNTech shots must be kept at minus-70 degrees Celsius—colder than the average annual temperature at the South Pole and lower than some other vaccine candidates require. Moderna Inc.’s shot, the other leading front-runner, must be shipped and stored at a below-freezing temperature that most home or medical freezers can accommodate.
Makers of dry ice are bracing for an expected demand surge. Logistics providers have been building “freezer farms” with hundreds of portable units that store pharmaceuticals at ultralow temperatures.
Plymouth, Minn.-based Pelican BioThermal LLC, which makes packaging that typically uses engineered materials to maintain temperatures, has tested and approved the use of dry ice in its systems to provide the sub-frozen temperatures needed to maintain the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines. The company is also ramping up global production of its large shipping containers that can hold full pallets of goods on rising demand from pharmaceutical companies looking to ship vaccines.
“There are a lot of investments bhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/for-airlines-dry-ice-in-vaccine-transport-demands-special-attention-11607370720eing made right now to get this done,” said Ira Smith, director of Pelican’s rental program in the Americas.

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-airlines-dry-ice-in-vaccine-transport-demands-special-attention-11607370720

Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Will Present Tough Challenge to Cargo Airlines

Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Will Present Tough Challenge to Cargo Airlines

  • Inoculations for the new coronavirus will require thousands of extra flights, taxing stretched airlines
  • UPS is combining multiple refrigerators at its airport hubs to store vaccines in transit.

The pandemic has revealed shortcomings in global supply chains and forced business to make logistics a bigger strategic priority. Successfully delivering Covid-19 vaccines will test manufacturers and shippers on what lessons have been learned.
“If 50 million doses were available today, could we distribute them?” asked Glyn Hughes, head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association, a trade group. “The answer is almost certainly ‘No’, for every jurisdiction.”
The air-cargo industry is making plans for delivering as many as 20 billion Covid-19 vaccination doses, even before regulators have approved any of the multiple treatments under development. Shippers say they are having to plan without knowing exactly how many vaccine doses they’ll have to ship, where they will be manufactured and how cold they have to be kept.
Pharmaceutical companies and shippers say they expect the bulk of vaccine supplies to be transported by air. Cargo-airline executives are working on a delivery schedule that assumes initial batches become available during the traditional peak season for shipping that runs from fall through early February.
Carriers such as FedEx Corp. FDX 0.44% and the DHL arm of Deutsche Post AG DPSGY 0.22% have started preparations such as introducing new temperature-monitoring systems to track future vaccine shipments. United Parcel Service Inc. UPS -0.41% and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are building “freezer farms” combining multiple refrigerators at their airport hubs to store vaccines in transit.
Yet cargo flights are fast filling up through February with bookings for consumer electronics, apparel and industrial parts through the holiday season and new year, said airline executives. This year’s peak season is expected to include a lift from the delayed iPhone 5G from Apple Inc. and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 5.
“We’re planning for the mother of all peaks,” said Don Colleran, president of FedEx’s express division, on an investor call last month.
Airlines said they would make room for essential supplies such as vaccines, just as they have for personal protective equipment throughout the pandemic.
Most of the potential vaccines have to be kept at a low constant temperature throughout the journey to prevent spoiling, according to cargo experts. These fall into two temperature ranges—around freezing and about minus 70 degrees Celsius—with very different transport and storage requirements.
Pharma executives said spoilage rates for other vaccines during transport range from 5% to as much as 20% because of poor temperature control.
“This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the transportation industry,” Michael Steen, chief operating officer at Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc., said in an interview. Atlas is one of the largest cargo airlines, flying freight on behalf of customers including Amazon.com Inc. and DHL.
Cargo executives said they expect it will take two years for a vaccine to reach all of the world’s population, with particular challenges in some emerging markets where infrastructure is limited.
The air-cargo industry isn’t starting from scratch. Pharma products have been one of the fastest-growing and most profitable cargo types over the past decade. Shippers have developed increasingly sophisticated supply chains for vaccines in recent years, especially for the flu. Gene therapies, another booming area, already require transport and storage at very low temperatures.
Planning flu-season vaccine deliveries typically starts months ahead and includes analyzing which routes and airports carry the highest risk for delays and spoilage, said Larry St. Onge, president of DHL’s life sciences and health care unit.
DHL is applying that analysis to potential Covid-19 vaccines, which will have more-urgent delivery needs and far larger volume.
IATA estimates transporting a single dose to the global population would require the equivalent of 8,000 fully-laden Boeing Co. 747 flights, based on dimensions for vials and packaging provided by pharma companies. A recent study by DHL and McKinsey & Co. pegged demand at 15,000 flights, while including syringes and protective equipment for medical staff would increase the cargo-space requirement.
Pharma shipments already account for around 1.9% of global air-cargo volume, said IATA, and adding Covid-19 vaccines could double that share. Not every freighter jet is able to handle very cold cargo because of regulatory restrictions on how much dry ice they can transport to cool them, said executives.
Air-cargo capacity is already tight, with flights flying fuller than before the pandemic started. International air-cargo capacity was down 32% in August from a year earlier while demand was only 14% lower.
The pandemic-driven travel downturn has removed from service hundreds of passenger jets and the belly space that once carried cargo. More freighters are joining the fleet, with Atlas returning stored 747s from the desert and passenger airlines converting around 100 planes to carry freight in their cabins.
Covid-19 vaccine makers such as Pfizer Inc. have already begun manufacturing doses to be ready for shipment should regulators authorize their use. However, the uncertainty over approval timing and shipping requirements has meant they have stopped short of booking space on cargo flights, said airline executives.
The U.S. government last month outlined its initial plans for distributing vaccines domestically under its Operation Warp Speed program run by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
McKesson Corp. , one of the world’s largest drug wholesalers, has been contracted by CDC to ship some vaccine types in the U.S. It hasn’t detailed how they would be transported, and air-cargo executives said they haven’t signed any Covid-19 vaccine-related deals yet. McKesson declined to comment.
President Trump said during the opening presidential debate last week that the military would support distribution of the vaccine. The Pentagon said it doesn’t expect to have to use military transport aircraft, except to very remote areas. “Our best military assessment is that there is sufficient U.S. commercial-transportation capacity to fully support vaccine distribution,” said a spokesman.

Walmart tests drone delivery amid escalating Amazon battle

Walmart Inc. is entering the drone delivery wars, its latest move to counter Amazon.com Inc.’s dominance in e-commerce as more Americans choose to shop from home. The world’s largest retailer said it has started piloting drone delivery of grocery and household items from its stores in Fayetteville, N.C.

The automated drones are from Israeli startup Flytrex Aviation Ltd., and can fly about 6.2 miles carrying packages up to 6.6 pounds, according to the company’s website. They take off from a landing pad near the store. The move follows Walmart’s attempt to counter Amazon’s popular Prime service with its own membership program, dubbed Walmart+, which debuts Sept. 15.

The two rivals have both acquired millions of customers during the pandemic thanks to their low prices and convenient shopping options, and the key now is to hold onto them by making it even easier to purchase the millions of everyday items they carry. Drones can reduce contact between customers and couriers, making them an increasingly popular option for businesses as the coronavirus continues to spread. 

Amazon has a head start with drones, as last month it became one of only a handful of companies certified by the U.S. government to operate as a drone airline. That allows Amazon to begin its first commercial deliveries in the U.S. under a trial program, using the high-tech devices it unveiled for that purpose last year. 

Flytrex’s drones are part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP), which aims to bring together private-sector companies and state and local governments to test drone operations. “We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone,” Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior vice president of customer products, said in a blog post. “That still feels like a bit of science fiction, but we’re at a point where we’re learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers’ lives easier.” Walmart first mentioned that it was testing drones at an investor meeting in October 2017, and in February said that it had drones “flying around” in some of its Sam’s Club warehouse locations to help manage inventory.

It has also filed patents for systems that would help ensure safe drone drop-offs into customers’ backyards, including one for a floating blimp-style warehouse.

Link: https://www.gmtoday.com/technology/walmart-tests-drone-delivery-amid-escalating-amazon-battle/article_edbd6016-fb3c-11ea-bf1d-27cff35bd482.html

Accident: South West Aviation An-26

Status:
Date:Saturday 22 August 2020
Time:ca 08:40
Type:Silhouette image of generic AN26 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Antonov An-26B
Operator:South West Aviation
Registration:EX-126
C/n / msn:11508
First flight:1981
Crew:Fatalities: / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: / Occupants: 5
Total:Fatalities: 7 / Occupants: 8
Aircraft damage:Destroyed
Aircraft fate:Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:ca 4 km NW of Juba Airport (JUB) (   South Sudan)
Phase:Initial climb (ICL)
Nature:Cargo
Departure airport:Juba Airport (JUB/HSSJ), South Sudan
Destination airport:Wau Airport (WUU/HSWW), South Sudan

Narrative:
An Antonov An-26 cargo plane was destroyed when it crashed near the Referendum neighborhood, shortly after takeoff from Juba Airport, South Sudan. A post-impact fire broke out. Of the eight occupants, one person survived.
According to NewsAero Africa, the aircraft involved in the accident was registered EX-126. The aircraft was however last seen operating using a (fake?) Iraqi registration: YI-AZR.
The South Sudan Minister of Transport stated that the aircraft was chartered by the World Food Program to transport supplies and wages for personnel at Wau and Aweil.

Link: https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20200822-0

Photos:

Link : https://www.facebook.com/andrewdut.ariik/posts/1195677637457743 (Andrew Dut Ariik Facebook)

Eye Radio Juba Twitter, link: https://twitter.com/EyeRadioJuba/status/1297077959602442241?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1297077959602442241%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Faviation-safety.net%2Fdatabase%2Frecord.php%3Fid%3D20200822-0

Let L-410 – Fatal Accident (D.R. Congo)

Silhouette image of generic L410 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Date:Thursday 13 August 2020
Type:
Let L-410
Operator:Agefreco Air
Registration:registration unknown
C/n / msn:
First flight:
Crew:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Passengers:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Total:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Aircraft damage:Damaged beyond repair
Location:near Bukavu-Kavumu Airport (BKY) (   Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Phase:Approach (APR)
Nature:Cargo
Departure airport:Kalima-Kakungwa Airport (KLY/FZOD), Democratic Republic of the Congo
Destination airport:Bukavu-Kavumu Airport (BKY/FZMA), Democratic Republic of the Congo

Narrative:
The cargo plane crashed under unknown circumstances about seven minutes before the scheduled arrival time at Bukavu-Kavumu Airport, Democratic Republic of the Congo.The two crew members and two passengers died in the crash.

Link: https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20200813-0

Cathay Pacific strips seats from 777 aircraft for cargo

A Cathay Pacific widebody jet, up close side view. Cathay Pacific is removing seats from a couple planes to increase cargo capacity.
Cathay Pacific is pulling seats from a couple of twin-aisle planes to make way for more cargo. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

After operating thousands of cargo-only passenger flights since late March, Cathay Pacific  has deployed two widebody aircraft with seats removed to maximize floor loading of cargo in the passenger cabin. The Hong Kong-based airline removed the economy and premium economy seats from two Boeing 777 passenger planes to create more space for personal protection equipment and high-value products, it said in a cargo-oriented newsletter published Friday. Cathay Pacific began flying the modified aircraft at the end of July to Australia, which has suffered from limited air shipping supply.

It is participating in Australia’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism, which the government created to  help agricultural exporters get products to market after airlines closed passenger networks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The emergency program, which has been extended until year’s end, coordinates and subsidizes shipments through a select group of freight forwarders and airlines. The seatless aircraft, which were reconfigured by HAECO in Xiamen, China, can carry 12 extra tons of cargo, according to Cathay Pacific.

The overhaul and maintenance company also modified the seat track and marked lashing points for securing cargo to the floor The Hong Kong  Civil Aviation Department requires the airline to place cargo in customized bags made from a fire-retardant material that helps keep the cargo intact. Other airlines are using “seat bags” to protect aircraft interiors from boxes placed in seats, but this is the first known example of an airline receiving an operating exemption for floor loading with bagged cargo. Each bag is secured to the floor with a net. Safety requirements include keeping the front and rear seat rows in place to protect the doors and bulkheads from cargo that might shift during turbulence. Two or three airline employees accompany the cargo in the cabin to periodically check on the cargo and respond to any potential fire. All aviation authorities that allow airlines to operate with cabin cargo require cargo marshals because cabins aren’t equipped with fire-suppression systems.

Dangerous goods are never allowed in the upper deck. Redeploying idle aicraft for dedicated cargo service has been lucrative for passenger airlines. Cathay Pacific is late to the game of removing seats from passenger planes to create more space for cargo. Air Canada and Lufthansa did so in April. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last month granted U.S. carriers the authority to strip cabins of seats for cargo purposes. But Cathay Pacific is a combination carrier with a fleet of 20 Boeing 747 freighters at its disposal and likely didn’t feel the urgency of pure passenger airlines to increase cargo capacity. 

Cathay Pacific, which has been carrying medical supplies and other goods in seats and overhead baggage compartments since May, developed special procedures for loading cargo on cabin floors. Warehouse workers put the cargo bags in half-sized containers in the order they will be positioned in the plane. The containers are towed to the aircraft and unloaded one box at a time into hydraulic catering service trucks that are lifted to the rear doors of the aircraft. Ground handlers then wheel boxes into the cabin, position them according to the load plan and zip and secure the bags. Cabin loading takes much more time and manpower  than loading a pure freighter with containers and pallets.

Cathay Pacific estimates the load time at about three hours, but says it hopes to get faster as it refines the handling process. Alex Leung, the cargo products manager, said Cathay could convert more planes to seat-less freighters if demand persists, especially as the need for pandemic supplies collides with the peak shipping season this fall.  Cathay is only operating about 10% of its normal passenger schedule this month and has warned it expects to record a $1.3 billion loss for the first half of 2020. 

Link: https://www.freightwaves.com/news/cathay-pacific-strips-seats-from-777-aircraft-for-cargo

Korean Air’s Quarterly Profit Defies Coronavirus Travel Slump

Korean Air Lines Co. freight aircraft are seen at the company's cargo terminal in Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea.
Korean Air Lines Co. freight aircraft are seen at the company’s cargo terminal in Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Korean Air Lines Co. provided some rare positive news for the devastated global aviation industry Thursday, reporting a quarterly profit after flying planes loaded with products from South Korean technology giants to homebound consumers around the world.

The carrier’s operating profit was 148.5 billion won ($125 million) for the April-June period. Cargo sales climbed 95% from a year earlier to 1.23 trillion won. Asiana Airlines Inc. could follow suit with an operating profit of 43.7 billion won when it reports next week, according to the average estimate of analysts tracked by Bloomberg.

The profit comes as other airlines are reporting record losses; slashing routes, jobs and salaries; or collapsing altogether because of the impact Covid-19 has had on travel. The crisis has forced some carriers to retrofit their planes to haul more cargo and generate much-needed cash from surging airfreight rates.

“The cargo business has come to the rescue yet again when things are going bad,” said Um Kyung-a, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. “Countries will be in need of goods to restart their economies as many emerge from shutdowns due to the outbreak.”

Hedge-fund manager David Einhorn is on board, telling investors he bought a stake in Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. in the second quarter because he expects the cargo carrier to benefit from a shortage of airfreight capacity.

Korean Air and Asiana benefit from enormous demand for smartphones, TVs and components from Samsung Electronics Co. and memory chips from SK Hynix Inc., said Bang Min-jin, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. South Korea’s overseas shipments of semiconductors, its biggest export, rose 2.9% in June from May, while mobile equipment jumped 20%, according to the Ministry of Trade, Energy and Industry.

Samsung and LG Electronics Inc. both beat earnings estimates for the quarter ending June, as did Hynix, which said profit tripled after clients snapped up its products to meet demand from people locked down at home. Online commerce is booming: United Parcel Service Inc. posted its biggest one-day share gain in 20 years last week after beating earnings estimates, while Amazon.com Inc. posted a record profit and 40% jump in sales.

Korean Air and Asiana have strengthened cargo networks from Vietnam to transport gadgets made at Samsung and LG factories there, Um said. There’s also been strong demand for medical supplies, fresh fruit and seafood, she said.

Falling fuel prices helped drive down expenses, with every dollar adjustment impacting earnings by $33 million, according to Korean Air.

The increase in airfreight rates came as capacity was squeezed by the grounding of thousands of passenger planes, which carry cargo in their bellies. At the end of July, about 35% of the world’s passenger aircraft were still parked in storage, aviation analytics company Cirium said.

Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-06/korean-air-bucks-virus-challenges-to-post-quarterly-profit

Accident: UTAir Cargo AN74 at Gao on Aug 3rd 2020, overran runway on landing

The aircraft at Gao (Photo: Amadou Ndiaye)
The aircraft at Gao (Photo: Amadou Ndiaye)

A UTAir Cargo Antonov AN-74 on behalf and in colours of United Nations MINUSMA operations, registration RA-74044 performing flight UNO-52P from Bamako to Gao (Mali) with 4 passengers and 7 crew, went past the runway while landing at Gao at about 10:15L (10:15Z) coming to a stop on soft ground with all gear collapsed and nose and belly substantially damaged. One occupants received serious, 10 occupants minor injuries, the aircraft sustained substantial damage.

Locals report the aircraft performed a forced landing.

MINUSMA reported the aircraft arriving from Bamako with 7 crew and 4 passengers made a difficult landing at Gao. One occupant received serious injuries, the others minor injuries. The aircraft was substantially damaged.

An airport employee watching the accident reported the aircraft performed an emergency landing and went off the runway.

Local media report the aircraft overran the end of the runway. The pilot received substantial injuries, the others on board minor injuries.

No Metars are available for GAO, the last TAF prior to the accident reads:
GAGO 030500Z 0306/0406 24012KT 8000 SCT025 PROB40 TEMPO 0306/0311 VRB16G26KT 4000 TSRA BKN025 FEW033CB PROB40 TEMPO 0313/0323 VRB16G30KT 4000 TSRA SCT025 FEW033CB=

Link: http://avherald.com/h?article=4dacc90a&opt=0

Incident: Sprint AT72 at Ljubljana on Jul 31st 2020, smoke in cockpit

A Sprint Air Avions de Transport Regional ATR-72-200 freighter, registration SP-SPE performing flight P8-1905 from Ljubljana (Slovenia) to Cologne/Bonn (Germany) with 2 crew, was in the initial climb out of runway 12 when the crew stopped the climb at about 2700 feet reporting smoke in the cockpit. The aircraft performed a tear drop procedure and returned to land on runway 30 about 5 minutes after departure. Emergency services checked the aircraft and subsequently escorted the aircraft to the apron.

The aircraft returned to service about 40 hours after landing back.

Link: http://avherald.com/h?article=4dac14e6&opt=0

Airlines pivot to cargo during pandemic

Illustration of an airplane seat with a shipping cardboard box buckled in.
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Passenger airlines devastated by the decline in air travel during the pandemic are making up some of their lost revenue by strapping cargo into passenger seats and overhead bins of planes that would otherwise be grounded.

The big picture: It could be several years before passenger air traffic returns to normal, but the global demand for medical supplies, along with disruptions in manufacturing supply chains and increased e-commerce, means airlines have a chance, at least temporarily, to offset some of those losses by transporting more freight.

What’s happening: Since the pandemic began, some 150 airlines have been operating cargo-only “ghost flights,” using passenger jets to transport freight, according to Logistics Management magazine.

  • Icelandair Group, for example, in a deal with logistics provider DB Schenker, removed the passenger seats from three B-767 aircraft to transport medical equipment from China to Europe and the U.S., even slapping Schenker’s name on the side of its planes.
  • Emirates SkyCargo began loading cargo in the overhead bins and seats of its B777-300ER passenger aircraft in early May in response to growing customer demand.
  • Other airlines, including KLM, SWISS, Qantas, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific, have also modified some passenger aircraft to transport cargo.
  • Lufthansa even has a name for the converted planes: “preighters,” per Logistics Management.

“The cargo business is keeping aircraft, which would otherwise be parked, in the air and given us all more hope … that we will come out of this.”

– Dominic Kennedy, Virgin Atlantic’s head of cargo operations, told Logistics Management

Zoom in: United Airlines said cargo revenue was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal second quarter.

  • Total revenue plunged 87% in April, May and June, but cargo revenue was up 36% as United flew 3,800 international cargo-only flights during the period.
  • “I mean, who would have ever thought we could do something like that?” CEO Scott Kirby said on an investor call, praising employees’ resiliency.

Background: Passenger airlines have always carried commercial cargo – along with luggage and occasional pets – inside the belly holds of their planes. But when passenger traffic collapsed in early March, that airfreight capacity disappeared.

  • Yet as the virus was spreading, demand soared for personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns, most of which is made in China.
  • Travel restrictions also snarled international shipping, stranding cargo containers in ports worldwide.
  • And as people hunkered down, they did more online shopping, boosting demand for fast goods delivery.
  • “What COVID-19 caused was a huge backlog of shipments because the world stood still for awhile,” Aditi Mehta, whose company, PROS, provides revenue management tools for airlines, tells Axios.

For the record: The Federal Aviation Administration in April approved the use of overhead bins, storage closets and under-seat areas in the passenger portion of aircraft for lightweight pieces on cargo-only flights.

  • In May it expanded the rule to allow airlines to place cargo – with restrictions – in passenger seats when no passengers are on board.
  • What to watch: The cargo business is notoriously erratic – even more so now – and the head of the International Air Transport Association warned in a statement this week of continued turbulence ahead.

The rush to get personal protective equipment (PPE) has subsided and the economic recovery remains slow.

“Cargo is, by far, healthier than the passenger markets but doing business remains exceptionally challenging,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Link: https://www.axios.com/airlines-coronavirus-pandemic-cargo-650b9c5f-4956-4be8-86b2-05215b88c6dc.html